That Food Guy
Saturday, December 18, 2010
  Product Evaluation - Wanchai Ferry Cashew Chicken

Product Evaluation
Wanchai Ferry Cashew Chicken
A Chinese Dinner Kit in a box

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I like Chinese food. Anyone who has read my food critic blogs has probably noted a high percentage of Chinese food establishments critiqued. It was only a matter of time, apparently, before Wanchai Ferry would catch my attention. Actually, I have noted the television commercials for Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken that have aired for quite some time. I already make a lemon lime chicken and an orange glazed chicken at home so there was no great interest in the orange chicken. While shopping the other day I came across this new offering from Wanchai Ferry, Cashew Chicken.

In reading the box I noted that it was a breaded chicken, coated with a spiced cornstarch mixture and served with a savory sauce. We frequently enjoy sweet and sour chicken, sesame chicken and kung pao chicken. The cashew chicken offering from Wanchai Ferry seemed to be similar but with one of our favorite nutmeats, cashews. I dropped a box in the shopping cart with the intent of trying it out soon. We are always looking for new items to stock the larder, both in the house and the RV.
On the box it says to add chicken. I put two skinless, boneless chicken breasts out to thaw. I opened the box to take inventory of the other ingredients. Half the weight of the box is the rice. The rice is cooked as white rice and serves as the serving bed for the chicken mixture. There is an envelope of spiced cornstarch to dredge the chicken pieces, a packet of cashew sauce concentrate, and a small bag of roasted cashews.

The directions on the back of the box are short, easy to follow. The rice takes the longest to cook and is started first. One and one-half cups of water and the rice are added to a 2-qurt sauce pan, heated to a boil, the heat reduced and the mixture simmered, covered, for 20 minutes. I did vary from the directions here. I used chicken broth instead of water and I added a bit of minced garlic and some dried ground ginger to give the rice some flavor.
The directions call for 1-inch pieces. Cut the chicken into the larger chunks and set aside. The directions offer two choices for coating the chicken. The classic cornstarch in a bowl and dredging, or the chicken pieces and the cornstarch mixture in a plastic bag and shake; I chose the plastic bag approach and I wisely followed the instructions to pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. If the chicken is wet, the cornstarch and spice mixture will clump.
Heat a medium size frying pan and add oil. Carefully add the chicken pieces and fry, turning as needed until the chicken pieces are a nice golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the cashew sauce mix and ½ cup of water. Heat to a bare boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens. The package directions call for about 2 minutes but I needed about 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken nicely. Sprinkle in the cashews, stir to coat.

Serving suggestion is to make a bed of rice on a serving plate and ladle the chicken mixture over the top. You can also serve from the stove, ladling the chicken and sauce over a bowl of rice.
The Wanchai Cashew Chicken Dinner can comfortably be made in about 30 minutes. Made with two chicken breasts, the meal as served is sufficient for two and a snack for four. Paired with additional foods, such as fried rice and egg rolls, it can feed many more people.

Provided you have thawed chicken available, the Wanchai Ferry Cashew Chicken kit will make a tasty dinner for two in just a half hour. I certainly will keep a box in the pantry for that time I want something fairly quickly but don’t want to cook from scratch.
The chicken and sauce have good flavor. From the ingredients it looks like a bit of wine reduction, cashew butter, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce are the main flavor contributors. Although it is not listed n the ingredients, I think I taste a bit of sesame oil in the mix.
With the exception of the chicken broth in the rice, the rest of the directions were followed closely with good results except for a bit longer simmer to thicken the sauce. The box also makes several suggestions, “In place of chicken, try making with pork tenderloin or shrimp. You can also add 2 cups of cut-up vegetables, such as carrots, red or green Bell peppers, or snow peas…”
On the negative side, half of the weight of the kit is the rice and you are providing the chicken. That makes the cost per serving higher than you might expect. On the positive side it is a quick and easy meal to prepare. The completed dish looks good, has good flavor and compares very favorably with similar dishes from the store-front Chinese take-out shops.

How do think a home prepared meal compares with the serving suggestion on the box?

That Food Guy December 2010

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